Saturday, March 3, 2018

IoT and Machine Learning

It was the year 1996 when I first brushed through the concept of statistics. I never knew that a boring field like this could very well be useful over making graphs. I always thought statistics to be a tool of a good argument to start with eg when I start a debate on poverty I throw a statistic that as per last survey around 27% of the population is below the poverty line. Never I could imagine that statistics was such a powerful tool until I studied it not as a subject but with more interest some months ago in my second semester of MBA.  Today's premise of my blog actually is more centered around statistics. Yes Mean, Median, Variance, Standard Deviation, Co-relation etc etc etc. I would like to simplify another aspect of IoT and that is Machine learning. 

Before I do that let me give you a hypothetical situation. 

Suppose you have a house that has a toaster, an alarm on your mobile, a microwave, a refrigerator, a dishwasher, a washing machine and an air-conditioner.  Now everyday more or less you wake up at 6 when the alarm rings you turn off the air-conditioner, then you go for a shower not before you have started the washing machine and the dishwasher at around say 6:15 AM. Post the shower you come out and you toast two breads in the toaster and have some baked potatoes in the microwave. These event happen around 6:45 AM and by 7:15 AM as you are having your breakfast you turn on your television to see the news in say NDTV.  At 8:00 AM you leave for your office.  More or less your routine remains the same from Monday to Friday and you are usually following this unless some untoward incident happens or it is a weekend or it is a holiday. 

Imagine that all your machines would get this pattern, well close to it with some anomalies and one fine day they themselves do the routine without your intervention. At 6:00 AM the Air-Con turns off on its own, the geyser turns on for the hot water. As you go into the bathroom say at around 6:15 AM the washing machine and the dishwasher turn on on their own to do the chores. As you are out of the bathroom by  6:45 AM you have your breads toasted and potatoes baked in the Microwave (Assuming you have them already in the toaster before) and as you take the plate to the drawing room you have your television turned on to NDTV talking you through the important breaking news of the day. 

Seems very very spooky, actually horrifying and to some extent like a sci-fi movie. Well, this not entirely, but partly is possible by means of Machine Learning. 

What is Machine Learning? 

Experts have talked a lot about this and if I would be adding some more technical details to it, I will not do any good. It would be more like adding a drop of water in an ocean. So let me do the reverse. Let me take a drop from the ocean and explain you how the entire ocean water is like. Machine Learning is an innovative way of making a machine aware of the patterns of events based on past events, timings and trends.  Basically if you turn on a machine every day say at 7:00 AM and turn it off at 7:00 PM and this is continuously fed to the machine as two events with respect to time then the machine would  learn a response some-what like the picture below. 

As you can see this is a pretty flat picture of the machine getting turned on and off. This is a fixed pattern and this can be fed to the machine and one fine day the machine can work on its own to turn on at 7AM and turn off at 7PM.  The information that is fed to the machine is the knowledge that you give it to work as per the inputs automatically and to take a decision of turning off or turning on. In short you make the machine learn about a pattern of it working and taking decision automatically.  The process in which the machine is able to make sense of the data that is fed to it by means of some external source or its own internal operations so as to take a decision of its own about some of its processes is called "Machine Learning". 

The example above is a pretty basic example of machine learning and in a practical world this is not the way it always happens. Also time is not the only dimension on which the decision of turning on a process or turning off a process depends on. There are many dimensions into place. 

Eg a thermostat of an airconditioner responds to the ambient temperature and the expected temperature settings automatically. In this case the AC is learning about the ambient temperature and is adjusting the compressor working as per that constantly and this is an example of machine response to machine learning automatically. Same goes with the refrigerator. A washing machine can take a decision on the amount of water that it needs to take in for washing based on the load of the clothes and this is also an example of machine learning. So you see my friends machine learning is not a very alien subject. It is not a subject that we are not knowing or we are not aware off. It is the same as taking feedback of an output and then adjusting the input as per the expectation and go on automatically. 

So then why so much brouhaha over Machine Learning? Well here is the difference. 

Whatever examples I have given you till now are about machines that are stand alone. A washing machine can take a decision for itself, and it cannot intrude or pass on the message that it has stopped to the microwave or some other machines for them to use the washing machine result as an input. A level of machine learning in this case is about automation of an entire set of machines in a house or in an enterprise as if it is a part of the same process. So machines do not work in Silos but in a collective way. 

Since this is somewhat like a symphony or like an orchestra you can also call this as Machine Orchestration. 


Needless to say that when so many machines are involved in making the decisions based on many machines that are integrated the pattern will not be a constant pattern all the time. I mean the example that I had given before of your routine would not be same clock to clock every day. You have to be a robot to do that every day. Some day you may wake up at 6 and some day say even at 5:30 or some day at 6:30 and if the entire sequence of machine orchestration is based on your waking up time at 6:00 then things may go wrong. Like when you woke up at 5:30 you may be just going to the bathroom to see the geyser not on and having a cold shower or if you wake up at 6:30 you may see your washing machine started but no clothes inside. Basically randomness in a pattern can create havoc and so anomalies have to be accounted for. That is why machine learning does not depend on any one dimensional variable.  as you can see that if the X axis is the independent variable and the Y axis is the dependent variable then due to randomness of events there cannot be any fixed pattern that could be established. 

This randomness is much higher as and when the time duration is short. 

How to overcome randomness? 

As we discussed above randomness in machine learning is definitely a big problem. We will not be able to establish patterns. So how to remove these randomness so that we have a fully automated process by the machines so that there is virtually no error of them working automatically and there is a full fledged accuracy to the level of 99% that they work on their own. Well there are many ways of doing that. 

1. Introducing more independent variables: In a two dimensional plot we would not be able to show this however if the outcome of a dependent variables depends on many independent variables with conditions of any one or all of them have to be true then the probability of randomness would decrease. Let us take our example that we had taken before about you getting up for the office. Now in this case we do not keep only time as an independent variable. We also have a motion sensor in the house and some CCTV cameras in your house that record your movement. Now we put a condition that when you get up the motion sensor gives an input and looking at the time the AC decides that you have got up and then turns the AC Off and turns the geyser on. However if you are delayed going to the bathroom the temperature of the geyser is lowered so that you have the perfect temperature. It is only when you drop your clothes in the washing machine and you go to the washroom and turn on the shower the washing machine turns on. So in this case the shower is telling the washing machine that you are already under the shower so washing machine can turn on. Washing machine tells this to the dishwasher to turn on. In this case we see that the operation of all the machines are relative to the operations of others. This process goes on to create a kind of a chain reaction process till you are out of the house for the office. 

2. Studying the pattern over the days: Another way of reducing randomness is not to increase the number of variables that are independent but then to study the pattern for a long time and develop a kind of an algorithm inside the machine with some error margins. As the number of samples and inputs become higher the accuracy increases and the margin or error reduces substantially. It is a common rule in statistics that with the increase of the sample size the standard level or error reduces. Sampling error due to randomness comes down. In our case the sample size increases as we see this routine happening daily again and again and again. Every day the machines record something in them and develop a pattern. When they see that the relative error of two consecutive events have become considerably less than what it was before then it develops an algorithm of automation. 

However, nowadays we want immediate result of everything. We live in an age where we believe that 9 women can give birth to a child in one month, well on a lighter note. So option -2 alone is not viable as the entire system would take sometimes a lot of time to just learn the patterns. Also the moment it sees a spike or a variance the learning process would start again till there is normalization of the error margin. This would mean that the machines would more and more number of times just keep on learning and never do the things we want to do them on their own. So we need a combination of option -1 and option-2 to reduce the randomness in the machine learning techniques. 

Machine Orchestration and Integration:

A central process that manages the working of the machines on their own based on the independent variable inputs and respective machine algorithms is called as a machine orchestrator and the process is called machine orchestration.  Look at the picture below to understand more in detail about the same. 

There is a central Machine Orchestrator of the brain that is controlling different machines by giving customary commands for the processes. However the Orchestrator is not self sufficient. It gets inputs from the independent variables. Also the machines interact with each other with their controllers so that each of them can talk to themselves and to the central orchestrator. The custom algorithm that is developed in the machine is communicated to the orchestrator. The custom algorithm, in red is a result of all the independent variables and the orchestrator also has a feedback of the same. So in case there is an anomaly the orchestrator has the intelligence to change the process flow or to even shut the process for a manual override. 


So all in all machine learning is a process where the machines learn to become self sufficient in a step by step manner. Just like us humans from the day we are born to as we gradually age learn different things and responses to various situations. Machine learning is the same way in which a machine can be made this way of course with a great help from one of the most effective sciences, statistics and predictive analysis. 

So you see my friends, a time is coming when machines are going to be if not more intelligent in decision making then at least capable of decision making at least for the routine processes. Who knows one fine day they might even give us a competition. 

We will have more topics on this as I keep on exploring the fascinating world of Internet of Things, IoT. 

Till then keep evolving. 



Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The IoT (Internet of Things) Skeleton

We were on our way back on a Sunday morning from Lokhandwala to my home in Thane. It is definitely a long distance to cover and we were commuting by train and then bus. Me and my daughter. Needless to say we were parched and very exhausted. While the bottled water in the station took care of our needs of thirst it was the heat that we needed to get relieved about. My daughter threw a question to me if we could just turn on the AC of our house while we were just 10 minutes away from there so that once we enter the house it would be cool. Really it was a question to ponder upon. Sometimes kids throw such questions and demands which really make people think. As I said in my earlier blog, "To see the future it is very essential to hear your kids to see them." This was a case like that and so begun my study of a new technology, IoT, Internet of Things. To study something the biggest driver is a purpose and in this case like in many cases the driver was a simple question. So today I take upon this opportunity to humbly jot down some points that make the IoT skeleton. 

I would like to give a disclaimer before you read any further that I am not an expert in this technology and I am still learning the ropes of the same. However, whatever that is learnt needs to be shared because knowledge is the only wealth that multiplies on sharing unlike any other wealth in the world. 

What is the motivation of IoT for a layman? 

While many telecom experts have written tons about this technology that is yet to see a good light of the day, at least in India and other developing countries, it is essential to know how can this technology benefit a person who is not tech savvy or who is not really a technical field person. After all we make things for the people and not only for those who have a deep and sound understanding of technology.  The motivation of IoT is to take the internet from a level where it communicates between persons to a level where there is a level of communication between devices to devices, devices to person and of course person to person. The present internet is people-centric and it always needs a kind of a probe or a kind of an user to be at one end of the system requesting or processing information. IoT on the other side gives a kind of power to Non-Living machines to take the part in a very important process which was in a way limited to the human world, taking decisions. We would be living in a world were machines at some point of time would be able to take the same kind of decisions we take with cognizance of the external and internal environment. The only thing that IoT does not address is the fact that it does not put any emotion to the machines and thank God for that. 

Skeleton of IoT:

It is not easy to explain all aspects of IoT in one blog post rather it is impossible. As Einstein said "Things should be made simple but not further simpler" so we would really want to explore this technology in bits and pieces. Today I am taking an example that answers the question of my daughter and that is to control the machines by some kind of control system and intelligence built in the network. Of course in later posts we will also see how these machines end up taking decisions on their own. 

A primary requirement of this would be to connect the devices by means of some method to the internet after all we are talking about "Internet" of things and this has to be connected to the Internet in some ways. For this the device which in the figure below are  Air conditioner, Smart Electric Meter and Refrigerator need to have a transmitter/receiver that can communicate on a wireless interface with the home SOHO. Also there needs to be a special kind of a Transmitter/Receiver in the SOHO router which can translate these signals from the devices to a legible format that can be read over the internet. 

Let us see the picture below and disect it piece by piece. 

Well it is very clear that on the left side there are devices connected to the SOHO and on the right hand side we have the internet infrastructure. 


A LoRa WAN is similar to that of a wifi protocol the only difference is that it runs on 433MHz. Other bands can also be used, but I found the band of 433MHz to be more popular as this is long range and is less prone to interference in present situations. This is an unlicensed band just like the WiFi and can connect the devices to the SOHO router. Of course the SOHO Router should also have a LoRa WAN concentrator receiver that it may then put to the Internet side. 


The communication is same as it is a normal IP communication. There is NAT in the SOHO that converts the private IPs to a public pool with a specific port number and then this is transferred over the internet to the subsequent application servers. Mind you that the user is able to control the system in this case only by means of a dedicated login to the application server either from the home laptop or a mobile device using a specific user name and password that is given for each device service or each device service group. A device service group is a collection of devices that can be managed using the same application by a common user id and password. Eg if you have all the appliance by a similar manufacturer then there may be a possibility of having a device service group for you and then you can control these devices using the same user ID and password. 

The flow of call is never from the user to the device directly it is from the user to the application server and then to the device and the reverse reporting is also in the same way. Well this is the simplest form of how you can setup the IoT in your network. 

Of course there are many devices these days that also do not require the LoRa interface and have an inbuilt WiFi receiver that can connect to your WiFi and there are apps to control that using your WiFi or also over the internet. However that is a different story. 

Addressing of the Devices:

Apart from IP the devices and the applications have a unique 64 Bit identifier just like the Mac Address. DevEui and the AppEui are what they are called respectively. These are unique addresses and are also sent in order for the application servers to exactly pinpoint the devices that they are actually accessing with the profile. 


There are three different 128 bit keys that the LoRa WAN operates upon. This is to ensure a proper secured session between the devices and the application. Because if this session is secure then and only then there would be a kind of integrity of the data reported by the devices to the users and the command chain that the user would provide to control these devices. Why? Because the media is fairly insecure (Unlicensed Band).  
  1. AppKey: This is a key which is permanent and is known by the application and the device. This key is a part of the system and is predefined. 
  2. AppSKey: This is the Application Session Key and this is generated when a session is established between the device and the application that is hosted on the application server. 
  3. NwSKey: This is the Network Security Key and this is also generated when the data flow starts from the Device to the application. The NwSKey is basically from the Device to the end gateway, in this case the point where the application servers are connected to the internet. This basically secures the Network flow or establishes a kind of a secured tunnel for the device to communicate so that there is no tapping of information at any point of time.
The second and the third keys are generated during the session establishment and the data flow while the first key is predefined for identification. 

So my friends you see that how insecure it may seem to be it is not like that. There is a lot of lock and key present in the flow of data which makes the protocols inherently free from hacking. 

Use Cases:

Well there are many use cases of this. One it answers the question that my daughter asked. I can switch on the AC using an app on my mobile phone while I am just 10 minutes away from my house. I can look at my electricity consumption. I can look at my refrigerator cooling and adjust it accordingly also see whether it is full of goods or needs some refill. Of course in this basic model I will not be able to see if I have enough Ice cream in the refrigerator, that is a different case. 

What we look ahead at???

Well this is just the start. We can have a lot of things that we can do with IoT. We have not yet touch-based upon the decision making structure and how we can align devices or share device load in order to have a good use and optimal use of all the devices that we own. Basically from all the machines that our houses/businesses have in silos we bring them to a common ground where we can orchestrate or they themselves can adjust to the environment. 

Till then have a great day ahead and keep evolving....



Tuesday, February 27, 2018

OTT (Over The Top)...... is just the start of a new era

"If you want to look at the future... Look at your kids......."

Pretty strange words from me this time. Well, someone reminded me yesterday in my office that I also run a blog of technology and technical talks. But for some days or may be a lot of months I was suffering from a writer's block. I know it used to happen generally to authors of fiction but sometimes it really happens to part time bloggers like me. I was not getting an exciting topic to write about in simple words. A complication that can be made simple for others has always been my goal but then I was seeing a lot of confusion rather than complication and thus decided to stay out of it. Now that the air is clear and thanks to some children that I am in touch with including my 10 year old daughter understanding the changes that our industry, telecommunication demands has become simpler. 

So we come to the point. OTT or Over the Top, why did I select this topic for discussion. Well because there are various reasons for this and these reasons are listed below. 

  1. We are seeing a heavy demand of video and interactive content and this is not a downloaded content but a streaming content. 
  2. The concept of WiW WiW WiW which means (What I Want, Where I Want, When I Want) is on the rise. 
  3. People are tired of seeing the same old type of broadcast censored content on the Television and want to see a more mature and "in" content and in much more clarity. 
  4. Internet penetration has increased and now people have become content hungry and want to spend more and more time on the Internet to watch new things. 
The consequence of all these new wants led to the rise of a new star, a new entity in the telecom market, which is not regulated, which is cheap and which demands a lot of bandwidth; OTT or Over the Top. 

Netflix, Hotstar, Amazon Prime, VIU, ALT, Adda and many more applications with our very own Youtube is a classical example of OTT. 

And this brings to seeing our future through our kids. All my daughters' friends do not watch TV. In-fact I do not remember them watching TV for the last six or seven months that I have continuously monitored them. I have tried to note their behaviors and watching patterns. Boys and Girls both. They are all into watching content on their personal devices. Entertainment has become more of a personal preference than a family affair and this has given a rise to the concept of OTT.  

But the biggest question is are we as telecom engineers and the industry at large ready to answer the needs of our future? Are we really going in the direction which has been clearly indicated by our future generation? The answer, well is a yes and a no both. Yes because we are being more innovative and fast. We took 10 years to go from 1G to 2G, 5 years to go from 2G to 3G, 2 Years to go from 3G to 4G and while 4G is still baking in the oven we are starting to talk about 5G already. So the development graph has been exponential nevertheless. No because we are not addressing some of the core fundamentals of this business which is resulting into huge CAPEX flows for the Operator without any substantial return. 

Difference in the Business Model:

Operators need to know one thing very clearly over here, their domination over the services is no more autonomous. When we talk about voice an operator owns the circuit and also controls the customer. A voice customer is an asset of the operator as he/she is actually the content without the copyright for the operator and previously was the cash cow of the operator. However now the game has changed. Customers with this new entity and more Data - Centric entities in the foray are looking for more Data oriented services. 

The problem with Data is that it is repetitive at times, it belongs to some other entity with copyrights and demands variable bandwidth portions most of which is much higher that what voice demands. Setting up the infrastructure to enable high bandwidth data oriented services is very high as compared to voice however the end price that the customer expects is really very less. So the question is how an operator can make money in this business? 

The answer is fairly simple. The operator has to consider itself as a content service carrier rather than a service provider. This business model is not new. In-fact it is a very old business model, a legacy one which was started by our very own Door-Darshan (The national television channel of India). The service to the customer is free of cost but the revenue is earned from the content and the advertisements that come  in the channel. 

In the very case of OTT also the operator needs to know that major money is being minted by the OTT player who has just put a content server somewhere physically or in the cloud and is using the multi million dollar infrastructure of the operator to make billions of dollars for its own. It is but fair that the operator demands his pound of flesh from these OTT players. An operator ought to negotiate terms like advertisement revenue share or advertisement placement in the webpage or app that is being distributed by it. This would potentially be the other earning opportunity for the operator and thus can make a lot of money for it. 

So the rule is simple. 


Easier Said than Done:

While what I mentioned above may seem to be a logical conclusion towards the diminishing revenues that an operator is having for the services, it is really easier said than done. 

  1. Over the years players like Facebook, Google and Amazon have become powerhouses of content. 
  2. Google controls more than 40% of the internet content that is flowing world wide with its own innovative solutions. 
  3. These content giants have become so big that it is apparent for every operator to give them a red carpet than to actually negotiate them on terms of service. 

Where there is a will.... There is a way....

Yes, it is difficult. Yes, some of us may think we have missed the bus and we have just landed in a big mess. There is no other option to sustain than to invest but expect very less in returns. However, invest where is the question. 

  1. Invest more in creating sophisticated Data centers so that content hosting becomes easier for the content provider in your environment. 
  2. Invest in networks that are more evolving and allows more software-centric features. Networks that can sustain the changing environments of the industry and are not use and throw. They are stable and at the same time evolving. 
  3. Invest in manpower who are innovative. Encourage innovation and unconventional ideas. Remember the biggest industries in the world cropped up as a result of unconventional ideas and not "Grey - Hair Experience". 
  4. Prepare for change faster. This is because we have seen exponential changes happening from the year 2000 to 2020 and we will see a lot of changes. 
But the biggest question is..... Are the telecom operators "Willing" to do this????

OTT delivery needs an infrastructure that is robust, interactive and very high in bandwidth and at the same time takes a very less OPEX. It requires the operator to be steady because once the OTT is in mobile it is fine but when it enters devices like Smart TVs or any other high resolution visual devices then it becomes a big animal. 

I may understand a factor of buffering when I am seeing a movie in my mobile but then when I see it on my $1000 Smart TV I want to see it un-interrupted and high quality and this leads to the operator to upscale the services for the same. The networks have to be device sensitive so that they can understand device based requests and serve accordingly. This means high bandwidth networks are now evident. The 100Gbps is now going to be a store in the last mile rather than just being in the core part of the network and the core will be a multi Terabit mesh connecting several Data-Centers and servers in a resilient manner. 

Multiple feeds have to run a the same time and this would also mean local instancing of application in the edges that would require virtualization in great proportions. 

Therefore my friends the future is there.... It is certainly not dark.... And if you feel it is dark... Have a look at your kids..... However, it is a time where we as an industry invest in knowledge and innovation. 



Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Content Driven Industry

While we are all net - savvy and connection oriented today Internet has brought a new meaning to all of our lives. No, I am not talking about social networking.... That is the bad part.... What I am talking about is Internet is becoming a sort of necessity when it comes for us to do our regular activities like travelling, shopping, chatting etc....

I was in the First year of my college in 1998 when I first had the brush with this amazing world of the world wide web. Those days the most interesting part in the internet used to be the e-mail. It was wonderful that how we could now send messages that would have been otherwise sent by post to somebody as far as the other part of the globe in seconds. After that I begun to pay a visit to the cyber-cafe regularly. You could send files, pictures etc by e-mail and that was phenomenol. Then came another innovation, the yahoo chat room. Yes that was really a big leap at that time. Now you need to wait for a reply. You could fix up a time and chat with your friends in all parts of the globe in a group real time. Yes real time. That was like invention of the wheel. But now that too is obsolete and primitive.

In the past 16 years that I have experienced the internet and for the past 13 years that I am working in this sector I find the most important thing that has evolved this technology/industry as you may call it is "CONTENT".

Now when we talk about content this is a very vast topic and probably one blog post is not enough to discuss the entire aspect of content. However, to make it very short content is the matter that is being served by a particular web service or app or any other internet driven tool. We as telecom engineers can talk about lot of things. Like there was circuit switched network, then packet network, then more expansion. On the Mobility side moving from GPRS to EDGE to 3G to HSIA+ to 4G LTE. Much as we say that the evolution in the telecom was to increase the effective available bandwidth towards the users. And why did the users need higher bandwidth increase... That was due to enriched "CONTENT". Yes demand alone does not drive this industry it is CONTENT that drives the industry.

A popular content can create a huge demand and this compels Telcos and ISPs to provide higher bandwidth for this service. Needless to say that since it is the content that drives this industry the revenue shares for a content provider would and should be the maximum in the value chain.

Refer the link below for more details on how to create better content for a content driven startup.
Alpha-Digest (Experts in Content Creation)

Therefore it is but apparent for any budding technical professional or any one in this telecom industry who would want to evolve to make a venture to the Content Industry. But hey... Just one minute though.... Content is not purely technology. When we make this move from going to a content driven industry from a conventional telco as an individual choice we need to keep this thing in mind that this is a transition from Science to Art. Well, I still believe there is a lot of science left in the Indian Telco Industry apart from the large volume that it has, but that is a different story. Content creation and content design is an art and a lifetime of experience may not be enough and sometimes and accidental Idea may be having the potential to generate Millions of bucks. Look at ideas like Facebook, Youtube and Whatsapp... The idea is worth millions and as they evolve more they make more revenue not only on the popularity factor but also the customer inquisition factor. Every customer wonders, what will be next?

So if there is need to start up a content driven business one has to first understand the following aspects .

1. What are we targetting?: We have to be very clear as to what are the people we are targetting. Eg linkedin targets professionals, myntra targets shoppers and so on.

2. What should be the Frontend Presentation of the same?: Based on what we are targetting the frontend of the webpage should be made user friendly to that degree.

3. What should be the effective weight of pages?: India is a bandwidth starved country rather than a bandwidth rich country. As per the latest surveys we rank very low in the levels of internet speed and experience. Of course this is not in every part of india. A heavy loaded page would consume more bandwidth and a lite platform will make it available faster but will compromize on the richness of the content. So here is the trade-off call that needs to be taken by Artists and Engineers together. Of course different versions of the same content page can be made and this is another form of content engineering that can be.

4. How to distribute the content?: While there are content creators and hosters there are also content distributors. Just like any product is made in the factory but it reaches the market only due to the distributors so it is apparent that this time the appropriate content host and distributor is chosen. The Distributor can be a third party distributor in some regions, in some regions it can be the telco itself.

5. How to monetize the Content?: Now this is a critical part. If your content is popular among the people then there should be the ability of the company to actually capitalize on that. So proper analytics of the content in the terms of hits and views and downloads have to be maintained so that this can be a factor to get more ad revenues and more people interested in uploading their own objects as a paid service through your website or app.

6. Feedback and constant Evolution: This is a very important process towards maintaining the validity of the content and that it is always evolving based on the feedbacks collected. As we know content is a product and product has a market and market has cosumers with voice. So it is imperative to listen to the voice of the consumer whcih changes the market and modifies the product accordingly.

I am not an expert though in this business of content creation. However, I thought this would be a very interesting and a different topics for many telecom engineers who are probably bored by just handling one tiny part of the Internet that deals with Delivery assurance rather than the content itself.

As listed in my post before also you can have more details on how to create a good content for any startup in the following link.


Till then keep innovating and keep evolving.



Thursday, March 31, 2016

New demands of higher throughput...... What are the ways to enhance your network

When there is a steady increase in demand and it seems that conventional ways will not be able to meet the TTM then realize that time has come to change the game.... Time has come to have a new approach......

Recent approaches in Mobility networks

2G, 3G, 4G, LTE, A-LTE, 5G Ready, WIMAX and what not. As we go ahead in this journey of telecom we see that almost every year a new revision of 3GPP is coming in increasing the last mile throughput standards. India being a market of around 1 Billion users is not untouched by such developments and with the developments in the world India also wants to keep pace with the same. But the real challenges are that how do you constantly expand and evolve networks that are mammoth in size.

A typical tier 1 network of an Indian Telco consists of 50,000 + network elements of different kinds. While the Mobility technology changes there will be changes of course in the last mile RF and in the Packet core but a substantial change also occurs for the expansion of the entire transmission network.

Transmission networks are to be changed with respect to Technology ( from TDM to packet), Platform ( from traditional tunneled architecture to a full IP base), Capacity ( Penetration of nX10G or 100G networks in the access), Flavour ( Putting access DWDM for future growth) and Topology ( from Ring to a self restoring mesh). What I understand that replacing the last mile RF equipments is relatively easy as they are the last mile points however evolving the transmission network is a bit challenging.

Indian operators have wonderfully handled this challenge with respect to changing networks from TDM to packet and now subsequently changing to self healing ip mesh but the major aspect which is the capacity is the thorn in the rose. Increasing capacity needs CAPEX and Time both of which are crititical to the service margins and time to market. So now let us look at the two approaches that people take to handle this.

1. Make the network FAT... (Conventional Grey Hair Planning)

I have introduced this term of "Grey Hair" Planning because in India it is becomes very difficult to convince "Experienced" persons to do something new. So this kind of planning for the future is the planning that the experienced people do and will keep on doing unless the owners realize that they have been totally gone kaput.

Nothing intelligent in this. The concept is still the same that there is one particular or few particular core locations of GGSN, Billing, PCRF and all of the content has to come from the core passing these gateways. Of course now the amount of content is much higher and more in volume. So to meet these high demands they need to make the network FAT. 10G networks to 100G and then introduction of DWDM in the access. More expenses... More complications and more people to look after.

The conventional way of network expansion

Now while this is really impressive and expensive we need to understand the major problems in this kind of growth. I am not saying that expansion in this fashion is not necessary. Yes it is. However, only thinking in this manner is not the key. This form of expansion has its challenges of time and especially in India where the network sizes are large the planning needs to be really careful. Most of the CAPEX is reserved in this but the experience for the users hardly increases.

2. Futuristic way of Planning

Most of the "Experienced" planners may not agree to this method so my humble request to them is please do not read this section and waste your time.

Most of the time we assume that critical services are going to be always in the core and not realizing that as and when there will be more demand for services they have to be closer to the users. The key to this is Virtualization and then localization in the edge. In this case expansion can take a back seat for some time and the operator can concentrate to distrubute services like Billing, PCRF and CDN in the edge so that content is deliverted from the Edge itself.

Virtualized network
In this approach we introduce the concept of virtualization but making VNFs (Virtual network functions) at critical edge locations. This makes the PCRF and BSS more distributed. In this structure the content is now localized at the edge. The network is not planned to catter Million subscribers but is now distributed to cater Several sets of 1000 customers in actual sense.

Creating this infrastructure will take much less time and less capex than creating an expanded infrastructure.

But I know, my dear friends, this is unconventional. It will take more time to convince the grey hairs to start the work for this. However, time will come when they will give way. So have

Normally it takes more time to convince the "Experienced" people for this technology than to actually lay down this technology.....



Thursday, July 23, 2015

LCO: Local Cable Operators, how they can actually accelerate the incomes of TELCOS

When a whale comes to attack.... It is evident for the other fishes to co-pete than compete.....

Technically speaking for any kind of an IPTV or a broadband deployment LCO is the last mile connectivity. LCO which stands for local cable operators provide the last mile connectivity to the customers in retail for which they get their own share of money and actually have some major expenses towards the procurement of Bandwidth and content from the BW providers and the Content providers or the IPTV streamer.

The LCO is the final point of service provision which actually makes or breaks the experience of a customer.

Have a look at the figure below.

LCO Entity and how it is helping the distribution

As you can see that Major networks of India are terminated in the same way. Over here we have the LCO which is actually bearing the brunt of the customer pressure directly but is earning the least. While on the technical aspect the architecture does not have any flaws, there is a major flaw in the business model of this architecture.

Let us understand the aspects of the LCO over here which actually kills the experience of the customers and the basic Business model towards generating more Bandwidth for the end users.

1. LCOs have shallow pockets:

The domain of business for LCO is less and thus the revenue generation is also less. Demands from the Indian customers with lower prices actually lead to the fact that LCOs would not be able to deliver the rising levels of services with higher experience at this price.  LCOs have to pay each and every back provider at negotiated costs which brings them under severe financial pressure.

2. Low Reliability in the network:

LCOs are not bound by the SLA agreements of retail at such low prices, not saying that they do not meet it, but again they are not obligated to meet them. This actually leads to lower experience and lower consumption.

3. Use of non standard and open source solutions:

While the solution at the TELCO front may be standardized and of high level of quality this is not there for the equipments for the LCOs as due to budget constraints they are forced to go for cheaper and quality compromising solutions. Not saying that they do not deliver it, but there is a lot of compromised done to maintain quality.

While we have discussed about this about the problems of LCO there are solutions to this at a very global scale which will actually maintain high quality of the network at effective prices. However this has to be done with some good deal of hand helding by the TELCOs. Question why should they do this? Is this charity? Answer is no... Let us understand how.

1. Retail Broadband business is a focus that TELCOs have to take:

It is not a hidden fact that every TELCO wants to increase the customer base and bandwidth consumption. However if every TELCO wants to be independant in the retail business of broadband this may not work. Therefore TELCOs generally consider selling bulk pipes to the LCOs, which by the way reduces revenue year on year for them, however keeps them out of the headache. However, it has to be considered that there is a break Even point.

2. Telcos can become CDN of their OWN and actually can get a lot of money from content. 

Again it is the TELCOs who have covered the length and breadth of the country by their fibers and SWAP fibers between each other. However one thing that has been overlooked in this entire concept is the fact of earning from the content. With the magnitude of the network that a TELCO has the telco can be the CDN of their own and actually can invoice the content providers for the content delivered through their networks to the LCO as well.

3. Copete with the LCO:

A Business model that is based on revenue sharing of content and BW delivery every month which is actually lower on the LCO pocket and which enables LCO to provide more and more content to the users at accelerated rates.  If a TELCO which has like 500 LCOs under it does a revenue share with the LCO rather than a complete lumpsum BW deal then this will be lighter on the LCO pocket as well as will be more profitable for the TELCO. As this will mean that the TELCO is now free to provide good solutions that are not only based on BW but also based on content to the users.

This way a TELCO that is aspiring to deliver FTTx kind of solution but does not have the amount of resources or focus to deploy it independantly can actually enter this market with very less Time to Market.

Let us have a look at the figure of how the Revenue flow works. Accounting stays with the TELCOs for the users so that there is no revenue leakage in this process.

Co-petition with the LCO 

In this model as we can see the TELCO does a Revenue tie up with the LCO and this actually releases a lot of pressure from the LCO about maintaining a huge strata of equipments. LCO can focus on laying infrastructure and peering with the TELCO only instead of multiple sources.

The Authentication and charging of the system remains with the TELCO and this is how the revenue flow is in control and on that basis there is a revenue share agreement between the LCO and the Telco. As and when the LCO customer grows TELCO pushes more and more content at high BW rates. Content that is localized in the content localizer.

The TELCO now is also a CDN and does the Invoicing to the content provider and gets money out of the content delivery. TELCO can actually contemplate on launching its own applications and own content to push through many users now. 

TELCO is no limited now only to mobility.... It is in real sense TELCO now. 

I know it will not be easy to bring forward this change in India (Though this has been happening in the western world in a quite nice way) as there are many apprehensions for new Idea but I am confident that the new generation of telecom engineers and telecom professionals would look forward to it. 

This actually releases the TELCO from the shackles of diminishing BW rates and makes it more focused on content delivery and earning revenue from it. 

It also encourages the SW and domain development industry in a country of a Billion people. Enhances E-Commerce. 

Think about it.



Saturday, May 30, 2015

Telecom Operators in India have to think Wide

Hi Guys,
The telecom revolution started in our country in the year 2000 to be more accurate and since then there have been a lot of developments. Initially the focus was more on penetration of the services to different regions and there was a stress that more and more people should have the mobile. But now things are different. Markets are saturated and now the Telecom Operator is seeing the noose tighten on its neck as the revenues and margins both fall. In India, especially the operators have not been able to make ground orMAKE A LOT OF MONEY out of businesses like 3G and 4G though much is / has been spoken about the same.
I am not a great telecom advisor, but being in this industry for some time, 13 years "young" to be precise, would like to provide some of my views on the changing ways that should be adopted by the telecom operator in order to generate additional revenue and profit without disturbing the user ecosystem of the nation.
There is an Ocean of Opportunities for Indian TELCOS
Lack-lustre Policies are killing it
The basic theory and the execution of it lies within a solid foundation of Infrastructure that the Indian telecom industry has. Companies in India have had the luxury of laying their own fiber and have been generous enough in doing that. However this has not translated into greater thinking of how to expoit it.
Let us think how much potential does a big telecom operator (Tier-1) have with regards to offering services. And these are some of the items that have to be thought in the line of business seriously by "Telecom Professionals" not hop ons from the "FMCG" in an operator industry.
1. Generating Revenue Through Content Delivery: It seems ridiculous that in a country with so many big Telcos having the capacity to build IDCs of their own and having the capacity to provide Peering for so many ISPs down the line, there is still existence of 3rd Party CDN's appart from the operators. The operators are so big in size that they could themselves strike a deal with the content providers to distribute content on their behalf and get a share of the revenue for the content Delivery that the CDN is doing at the behest of Operators network. Today the proposition of a typical CDN is to place its equipment in the operator IDC, use resources of the Operator and earn loads of money while giving operators just a share which is peanuts. I must say that the CDNs have really got the better of the operators plainly because in the CDN industry the people who are doing the business know the place where more profitable revenue from Internet can come. On the other hand you have operators, who are big in size, but have never developed this attitude to think how better to use their system. It is a pity that this is happening with the operators who have massive infrastructures, good skill setHIRING power and very much pronounced technical staff. The only issue is the business side of the operators are not looking towards this but plainly continuing of twigging the tariff plans of their mobile services. A big operator of India with a customer base of 250 Million in Retail mobile and several enterprise ILL customers of ISPs should have this courage and authority to assert itself on content providers to share the revenue with them for content delivery and not with the CDNs.
"I sincerely wish some owner of a big telecom firm is reading this......Because below the line this point will fall on deaf ears and blurred visions......"
2. ProvidingCLOUD HOSTING Services: If I am a telco with massive resources I might as well provide hosting services to the corporates . Why does India need an Amazon to launch cloud services on the infrastructure of Telcos. Why can't the teclos themselves launch it and make that extra bit of revenue on which a company like Amazon can survive in India? What keeps these telcos from staying away from launching such services in the country that are sure shot revenue generators for them? Shortage of skill set?? For sure not.... Then... This is the shortage ofMARKETING thinking. Being a telecom professional my heart bleeds when I see the TELCOS becoming only "DUMB PIPES" for these companies who actually build their high revenues on the foundations of Telcos. A TELCO becomes a DUMB PIPE only due to lack of focus. But this being perpetual throughout India is a problem. Let us look at other countries where TELCOs are the main source of such services of hosting content.
3. Virtual Office Creation: Today there are so many small and medium enterprise in this country who cannot afford a place to work because they have to maintain costs. However, they are interested in Virtual Offices which need a lot of BW and Telecom infrastructure like Voip, Internet, Leased Lines, VideoCONNECTIVITYand so on. The TELCO can provide a very consolidated package for these people for their employees and generate the right kind of revenue which is constant and not frivolous. This is happening in India but again TELCOs are behind in this strategy and this is mostly done by some 3rd Party, again leasing DUMP PIPEs from the telco.
To summarize time has come for the Indian Telecom Industry to change... Change in Perception and in some cases if that is being altered chance in Persons. Telecom services are not Soap and detergents and cannot be sold in that way. There has to be some perpetual way of revenue generation, some alternate way of generate revenues which will actually make the industry more profitable and people working in this industry 24x7 more happy and enthusiastic. If this does not happen the TELCOs will become the biggest PREYS of their own policies.
Think about it friends.